By  on December 15, 2004

WASHINGTON — China has more than doubled its share of U.S. textile and apparel imports in the past two years and maintained that momentum in October, largely contributing to the highest 10-month import period on record, the Commerce Department’s trade report revealed Tuesday.

While worldwide imports of textiles and apparel to the U.S. rose by 203.1 million square meters equivalent to 4.06 billion SME in October, Chinese exports to the U.S. increased 29.8 percent, a 245.5 million SME jump to 1.07 billion SME.

In the first nine months of the year, global imports of textiles and apparel rose 10.1 percent, or 3.58 billion SME over the same period last year, to 39.2 billion SME, marking the highest 10-month period on record. Imports from China over the past 10 months rose 29.9 percent, to 2.416 billion SME.

China’s share of all U.S. apparel and textile imports grew to 24.62 percent for the year ended Oct. 31. By comparison, China had a 12.96 percent share of all U.S. textile and apparel imports in 2002 — the year some products were removed from quota as part of a global phaseout of quotas. Mexico, the second-largest supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S., had an 8.8 percent share for the year ended Oct. 31, while Canada, the third-largest supplier, had a 7.1 percent share.

China continued to post the biggest import increases and dominate in categories no longer under quota, such as quilts and comforters, tablecloths and napkins, man-made fiber woven bags, luggage and infants’ wear.

China’s dominance of global apparel and textile trade comes at a time when countries and industry groups around the world have stepped up the pressure on the country to restrict its imports. In a move apparently designed to show it is taking the concerns of both developed and developing countries into account, China announced Sunday it will begin to impose a tax on its textile exports. However, Chinese officials have provided little detail about the initiative and trade observers disagree over China’s motives.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is reviewing 10 China safeguard petitions and is set to rule on whether to impose quota limits on certain Chinese apparel and textile products in February. The U.S. government has also been sued by the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, which seeks to halt the review and acceptance of threat-based petitions. The U.S. is expected to file its response today and a hearing has been scheduled for Monday.

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